Dancers look to the ‘Eight Immortals’ for their inspiration

Staff Writer, with CNA

Fri, May 27, 2011 - Page 2

Eight dancers from the Taipei-based Century Contemporary Dance Company will each perform a solo dance that is an interpretation of what the eight most famous Chinese deities might have to say about the modern world.

For the performance titled Back to the Eight Immortals, artistic director Yao Shu-fen (姚淑芬) asked eight dancers to each collaborate with artists from different disciplines and create dance pieces that embody the divinity or dilemmas of the Eight Immortals of Taoist legend, whose influence has been present in Chinese artwork for more than 1,000 years.

Yao said she wants her performers to be more than just dancers.

“Let’s put it this way, it is difficult enough being a good dancer and it is even more difficult to create something and dance the piece yourself, but if the dancers learn how to choreograph, their professional career in the dance industry will be much longer,” Yao said.

Having received classical ballet training since the age of five, Yao is known for creating an avant-garde choreographic vocabulary, but prior to this project, she seldom drew inspiration from Chinese folklore or legends.

In Chinese culture, gods with divine powers are often worshipped, rather than understood, she said.

“There is a shared connection between humanity and divinity, and the production is about portraying the conflict and the harmony of the divinity that exists in every human being in this chaotic modern world,” she said.

Complex perhaps, but Yao said her dancers would make it easy for the audience to understand.

At a short dress rehearsal held on Wednesday, dancer/choreographer Hsu Chien-yu chose He Xiangu, the only female goddess among the Eight Immortals, as her source of inspiration and transformed the female deity into an anime-type maid who is trapped into satisfying the desire to eat.

The eight performances, each eight to 10 minutes long, opened at the National Experimental Theater yesterday and will run until Sunday.